Sunday, February 18, 2018

Turning chicken

The Better Half [BH] has decided she wants to raise chickens, primarily laying hens. She thinks she's spending too much money on eggs. (We think that's like reverse egg money, but we're not sure.) We haven't yet shared with her our observation that reasoning such as she's applying is akin to our trying to claim we save money on fish and meat by hunting and fishing. Once, when we were much younger and dumber, we added up the prorated costs of four-wheel drive pick-up trucks, boats (large, small and canoe), guns, dogs, clothing, shells, waders, rods, reels, gas, bait, lures, etc. and divided that by the number pounds of fish we caught and ducks, geese and grouse we shot. 'Nuff said. We figure chickens and eggs may be a comparative bargain.

Our next concern centered on the notion that the BH wants to take more trips--long weekends or week-long vacations, to explore regional attractions such as the Driftless Area, Superior's North Shore, western Minnesota's prairies, etc.... Chickens need regular food and watering. We learned that there are feeders and waterers that hold a week's or more quantity. So that seems to be that, as they say. Heaven knows our sand plain soils can use all the organic matter we can provide and the wild turkeys don't hang around long enough or scratch enough to help out much.

chickens in a chicken tractor would do a more thorough job scratching
chickens in a chicken tractor would do a more thorough job scratching
Photo by J. Harrington

The location of the prospective coop is being negotiated. The BH's preferred location is inconvenient due to Winter's snow falls and drifting, plus there's no electricity nor any paved path that could be readily snow blown. Alternatively, behind or beside the garage has been proposed as an alternate location with electric plugs readily available and snow-blowing thrown in for free.

If we were younger, we might seriously consider including a few birds for fly-tying feathers. Actually, if the egg-layers aren't as much of a pain as we fear they may be, we might add in some hackle growers just for the heck of it. But first we want to see how well we manage to hold off any skunks, raccoons, coyotes, weasels, mink or black bears that occasionally wander through the property. On the plus side, if we put the birds in a chicken tractor (check Joel Saladin's PolyFace farm) during warmer weather, they should consume most, maybe all, of the ticks. Perhaps their scratchings might even help level out some of our pocket gopher mounds. This could get interesting. Stay tuned! We're getting all organic as hell around here!

                     Woman Feeding Chickens

Her hand is at the feedbag at her waist,
sunk to the wrist in the rustling grain
that nuzzles her fingertips when laced
around a sifting handful. It’s like rain,
like cupping water in your hand, she thinks,
the cracks between the fingers like a sieve,
except that less escapes you through the chinks
when handling grain. She likes to feel it give
beneath her hand’s slow plummet, and the smell,
so rich a fragrance she has never quite
got used to it, under the seeming spell
of the charm of the commonplace. The white
hens bunch and strut, heads cocked, with tilted eyes,
till her hand sweeps out and the small grain flies.

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